Most people with chronic lung diseases know that extremes in temperature, meaning below freezing or above 90 degrees, can trigger exacerbations. Three factors can impact your ability to breathe in the summer—heat, sunlight and humidity.

When it’s hot, your body overworks as it tries to stay cool. You sweat more, which can cause dehydration and shortness of breath as a result.

Sunlight creates certain chemical reactions with pollutants in the air that cause an increase in ozone. This can result in difficulty breathing, irritation to your nose and throat, coughing, and wheezing.

High humidity levels can make it even harder to catch your breath. Warm air holds more moisture than cold air, reducing the amount of oxygen present. As humidity increases, the denser air is much more difficult to breathe if you have chronic lung issues.

It can be frustrating, but there’s plenty that you can do to help alleviate your symptoms during hot summer days:

  • Avoid the heat. Stay in an air conditioned place as much as possible.
  • Stay out of the sun, especially from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. when it’s the hottest.
  • Reduce strenuous activity. This does NOT mean you can skip your pulmonary rehab, though. Rehab will help, even during hot days.
  • Drink cold water and avoid alcohol because it can cause dehydration.
  • Eat normally, but separate meals into smaller portions, lower your salt intake, and try cold foods like fruits and vegetables.
  • Use a handheld fan or a large fan. Don’t point a large fan directly at your face because they can get very dusty.

Summer is an opportunity to relax, so take it easy when it’s hot and humid out—and stay cool!